GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: From Budget to By-elections – Parties Enter Campaign Mode
- The Government has introduced a bill to pass its $140 billion income tax plan, following this week’s Federal Budget.
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has put tax breaks on the pre-election agenda, after offering more generous income tax cuts than the Government in his Budget reply speech.
- Senator Katy Gallagher has been ruled ineligible to sit in Parliament due to her dual citizenship with the UK.
- Labor’s Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, along with South Australia’s Centre Alliance member Rebekha Sharkie subsequently announced their resignations, owing to their dual citizenship status.
- WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt has released the State Budget for 2018-19.
Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down his third Federal Budget this week, reaffirming the Coalition’s commitment to corporate tax cuts, and introducing phased income tax reductions over seven years. Two days after the Budget, the Treasurer introduced a bill to the Senate in an attempt to pass the entire $140 billion Budget income tax plan by 1 July, rather than divide the measures into stages. While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on Labor to support the whole package, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has so far only indicated support for the first phase of tax cuts, which will give 4.4 million taxpayers a $530 rebate in July 2019.
Mr Shorten used his Budget reply speech to offer voters an even bigger tax break under a Labor government, pledging to “go further and do better” for low and middle-income Australians. Labor’s Working Australians Tax Refund, delivered at a cost of nearly $6 billion over four years, equates to $928 per year and represents a tax refund of $400 more than that offered in the Budget. Mr Shorten’s speech focused on traditional Labor values around health and education, promising $2.8 billion in additional hospital funding; support for TAFE; and 200,000 extra university places over 12 years. Commentators described the Opposition Leader’s Budget reply speech as Labor’s campaign launch for the forthcoming by-election ‘super Saturday’.
Citizenship Saga Reignites
In a week traditionally dominated by post-Budget media coverage, the citizenship saga became something of a distraction as section 44 of the Constitution claimed another four MPs and one senator. In a unanimous decision, the High Court ruled that Labor Senator Katy Gallagher is ineligible to sit in Parliament, having failed to take all reasonable steps to renounce her dual citizenship with the United Kingdom prior to nominating for the 2016 Federal Election. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the news as “a loss to the Senate, and a loss for Labor”.
In the wake of the decision, Labor’s Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, along with South Australia’s Centre Alliance member Rebekha Sharkie, have announced their resignations due to their own dual status, with all MPs confirming they will re-contest the resulting by-elections. One Nation has announced businessman Matthew Stephen as a candidate for the seat of Longman; the seat is currently held by Ms Lamb on a margin of less than one per cent. Meanwhile, Georgina Downer, daughter of former foreign minister and member for Mayo Alexander Downer, will reportedly nominate for the Liberal Party preselection for Rebekha Sharkie’s seat of Mayo.
Liberal backbencher Jason Falinski has faced calls from across the floor to prove his citizenship status, and has lodged documents to demonstrate he is not a Polish citizen. Opposition frontbencher Tony Burke has spoken of a “cloud” over the status of several Liberal MPs, and called for Mr Falinski’s case in particular to be referred to the High Court. Additionally, WA Labor MP Anne Aly has faced recent media scrutiny around potential dual citizenship with Egypt; Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has asked Dr Aly to reconfirm the advice she received from the Egyptian embassy.
Over in the west, WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt has delivered his second State Budget in eight months, focused on infrastructure and returning the budget to surplus. The Treasurer promised the Government is on track to deliver a surplus by 2020-21 through reduced expenditure and spruiked the Government’s signature infrastructure project, METRONET. The WA economy is forecast to grow 3.25 per cent in 2018-19, while households will face increases to motor vehicle licensing fees, utilities charges and public transport fares at a cost of up to $300 per year.